While we’re massively
disappointed the Mass Effect 3 demo shown at this year’s GamesCom was identical in every way to the one shown at E3
, there was still a bit of a chance for some hands-on action with the game, which I graciously accepted. Now, what I was privy to was by no means ground-breaking - it was very much a run and gun section of the game similar in pacing and style to most found within Mass Effect 2, but there was also a chance to try out some of Shepard’s new combat moves, as well as to soak up some new atmosphere, touch on a little bit of story and even be tantalisingly locked out of one of Mass Effect 3’s biggest new features, weapon customisation.
The section on offer was but a short part of a larger tale to effectively
deliver a fertile Krogan female to Urdnot Wrex, while under heavy fire and suppression from Cerberus for who-knows-whatever-reason. Honestly, there’s already too much spoiler for my liking in the opening of this paragraph, but I had to set the scene.
From the outset I could choose Soldier, Sentinel or Engineer classes, and being the hardened individual I am (or want
to be), it was the Solider class for me. I was also given the reigns in regards to allocating Squad Points to my Squad (which comprised of Shepard, obviously, as well as Garrus and Liara), but in the interest of time, I just Auto Level-Uped
them so I could get into the fun stuff - shooting things.
Not much has changed from a control perspective. I was playing game on Xbox 360 and all the usual buttons did their usual thing, although holding down the B-button now offers up a more direct -- and action-packed -- melee finisher with what is called the “Omniblade”. This new feature was pretty neat, though I did notice that there was a bit of a delay between activating it and actually finishing off your target. This meant that a few times I actually missed the bad-guy who basically just side-stepped and either swung elbows at me or was just shooting me at point-blank range. It’s definitely a cool move, but a more “auto-lock” system needs to be added to it to make it more efficient. Either that or the team need to speed it up a bit.
Added to the new melee attack was a new ranged ability - grenades. These are simply mapped to your active hot-key like any other weapon or ability, and in the case of this hands-one, it was just the LB-button, which felt like a pretty natural place to have it. Unlike ammo as of the second and third games though, grenades are actually limited in supply, so you can’t just spam them, and from the short time I had to play with them, they’re not all powerful either, but rather just another concussive tool in your arsenal to manage the masses you’re fighting much better.
Sticky cover has also been greatly improved this time around, with Shepard actually able to move between cover positions that are separated much easier and even link to other cover that isn’t directly in line. This is all indicated with a basic push on the control stick in the general direction you want to move and the game responds with an arrow showing just where you’ll move him next. Once you’ve decided, just hold down the A-button and he’ll get to where he needs to go, ducking fire and danger along the way. There’s also a new evade move which is pretty handy in a bind, especially if you start going all melee crazy with the Omniblade and find yourself caught in the absolute thick of it.
Another major tout for the game, and something I mentioned earlier, is the addition of weapon customisation and, similarly to Dead Space, these appear mid-mission as bench-tops where, presumably, you can apply collected add-ons to your arsenal, to help you through bottlenecks you’re having trouble with. Unfortunately, despite actually having some add-ons in my inventory, the game locked me out of actually playing with the feature. It wasn’t so bad because the section we played through actually wasn’t all that difficult, but to have the benches active and add-ons there, only to be denied activation of the system, was a bit of a pain.
I won’t spoil the rest of the playable mission’s story component, suffice to say we weren’t really given any major dialogue choices to deal with, or any major story arcs to swallow. The game does look better than ever though, but not in any kind of unfamiliar way, rather, it just looks more polished and the vistas appear to have far more geometry this time around (though I’m not sure if said geometry expansion will really be utilised in an interactive, gameplay sense, or just be there for show). Action also felt much more intense, though I would have preferred more of a challenge, but when you only have around 10-minutes to play at trade-shows like this, it’s probably in the best interest of the devs to keep the game moving for punters.
My hands-on demo ended in a sub boss battle with a Cerberus operative in a giant mech suit. This, again, wasn’t too hard, but the resilience of the suit was probably the thing that stood out most, if only because it’s been confirmed you’ll be able to pilot them throughout the game. But by and large, not a lot else was really divulged, and as I mentioned earlier, unfortunately our hands-off behind-closed-doors demo was exactly the same as the one both Dan and I saw at E3.
Still, there’s a lot of time between now and when the game is due to be released (March next year for those not in the know), and we have a lot of unanswered questions. Things like, why are we fighting Cerberus in such huge numbers? What’s the narrative significance of a fertile female Krogan? And why, just why is Ashley back on the team during the Earth sequence we’ve been seeing in the aforementioned BCD sessions?
Thankfully we had an interview with the game’s Associate Producer, Mike Gamble, so stay tuned for that one where we do actually ask some of those questions above as well as much, much more.